Oregon Tells DEA to Butt Out

     PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Oregon sued the federal government, rejecting a DEA demand for information about a physician the DEA suspected of distributing illegal drugs.
     The Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program sued the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice, in Federal Court.
     In January, DEA officials served a subpoena on the plaintiff, a state agency.
     The subpoena requested a physician profile on prescriptions written by a certain doctor between June 2011 and January 2012.
     The DEA filed a petition to enforce the subpoena in August, saying the state agency did not comply with the request.
     Oregon said it refused to comply with the subpoena because it would violate state law. The state said it has its own prescription drug monitoring and reporting system, and told the feds, in effect, to butt out.
     Oregon said it could not disclose the requested information unless it came from “a valid court order based on probable cause” and requested by a law enforcement agency involved in a related drug investigation, according to a DEA memorandum in support of its petition.
     The DEA said it had complied with all the procedural requirements, and that the requested documents were relevant to an investigation of a doctor believed to be illegally distributing drugs.
     The agency did not specify which drugs are under investigation.
     “Data regarding a physician’s prescription writing is plainly relevant to an investigation of that physician’s potentially illegal distribution of controlled substances; and even then, a physician’s conduct need not be proven illegal,” the DEA wrote in its memorandum.
     U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak granted the DEA’s request to compel the subpoena in August. Now the state agency has challenged the subpoena, in a complaint seeking declaratory judgment.
     It seeks an order declaring that it cannot disclose the doctor’s protected health information unless it has been ordered by a federal court.
     The agency said it complied with Judge Papak’s order, and that the disclosure of the information would violate Oregon law.

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